Photo Lesson Overview on CGIPix.com

CGIPix is an observation that Nikon, Canon and the rest no longer make cameras,
they make computers that you can attach a lens to.
Here is a basic overview of what it takes to create good, better or best pictures, you decide how much effort you want to put into your pictures.

The basics of photography, all on one page:

Flash Units

There are 2 types of flash units, with a few variants of each one. The most common is portable strobes, powered by AA batteries. The other types are studio strobes, powered by 115AC voltage or large battery packs.

Portable Strobes

There is the ever present built in flash on a lot of consumer and "prosumer" cameras. The built in flashes are never located on a professional camera, the camera manufacturers assume you have external flashes if you're spending the money on a professional camera. To be effective, a portable strobe needs to have a few automatic accessories, such as a bracket, sync cord, and diffuser. The other accessory for a portable flash unit is an external battery. The Quantum Turbo is a great external battery, it's the one I always buy.

Types of Portable Strobes

Standard Hot Shoe Mount - This is the usual portable strobe people think about, something like a Nikon SB-900 or SB-800. The strobe mounts directly to the camera via the hot shoe on top of the viewfinder. This setup works decently with a diffuser, but adding a Stroboframe Bracket, Nikon sync cord SC-28 or SC-29 and a Gary Fong or Lumiquest bouncer make it more effective. If you just have the flash, and budget is tight, you can swivel the flash to bounce off of ceilings and walls. Handle Mount Flash - These are the larger units that have a built in bracket, and attach to the camera PC sync cord for Automatic or Manual metering, or to the hot shoe for TTL metering. Even with a handle mount flash, a diffuser of some sort is a good idea.

Ring Flash - Ring flashes are made for macro work. There are some that have a round flash tube that goes around the entire lens, and use ring adaptors for different filter sizes, and some that have 2 small flash units placed on either side of the lens.

Bare Bulb Flash - A bare bulb flash is exactly what it implies, a flash bulb with no directional housing. The bare bulb flash fills the entire room with light. Sometimes they will come with a reflector, similar to a studio flash unit. A bare bulb flash is very good for location portraits, and large groups.

Types of Studio Strobes

The studio strobes are much heavier and bulkier than portable flash units, and also produce an incredible amount of light with each flash firing. The studio strobes allow a photographer to control all aspects of lighting in a studio setting. here's the main types of studio strobe lighting:

Power Packs - These have a central power unit, and cables that attach to each lighting head. The Norman Power Packs are seen in a lot of studio settings.

Mono Block Lighting - Mono lights have all of the circuitry built into a single unit, housing the lighting and required high voltage circuitry. Mono lights have the advantage of redundant circuitry. If one light fails, you can still have 3 good lights, with a power pack, if the power pack fails, the shoot is over. Alien Bees are about the best mono light system currently available.

Portable Studio Lighting - Portable is a slight stretch of the imagination. The power packs alone can weigh close to twenty pounds. If you are doing an extended shoot, then you need several power packs. The Vagabond from Alien bees is a good solution for location work with studio flash units.

Light Modifiers

Light modifiers can be used with any type of flash units, but you have to be cognizant of your starting power and distances. With a small portable flash, you can't shoot it through and umbrella and get a long ways away from the subject. Here's some of the lighting modifiers available:

Soft Boxes - A soft box is great for producing a large even lighting source. Soft boxes come in square, rectangular and octagon shapes. The size of soft boxes range from less than a foot across to 6 feet and more. The larger the soft box, the more flash lighting you will need to be able to have effective working distances.

Umbrellas - An umbrella looks just like an umbrella for a rainy day, except for the materials used. A photo umbrella will have a silver or translucent lining with a dark outer covering. Umbrellas can be used as either shoot through or a bounce reflector. Umbrellas are a low cost alternative to large soft boxes, and work very well.

Snoots, Barn Doors and Grids - All of these are designed to concentrate the light on the subject, or prevent light from falling on a background. Snoots are a tubular design, usually tapering down to the opening. Barn doors have 4 adjustable flaps, to direct the light. Grids have a small honeycomb pattern that makes the light very directional. Grids usually come in 4 different sizes, 10, 20, 30 and 40 degree openings. Each different grid pattern will allow for different amount of beam pattern from the light.
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